Sunday, March 13, 2011

State of the Unions

click to enlarge

Is it starting to become clear yet? The totally unnecessary chaos in Wisconsin should be a revelatory moment, for anyone who wishes to learn, that working people have no business in the Republican party. Rookie Governor Scott Walker's blitzkrieg against collective bargaining rights for public employees is just the sort of thing that happens when an ideologue is elected who serves a political philosophy rather than the people who placed him in power. It also reveals the Janus face of the Republican Party. One face is of the social conservatives, dominated by the Tea Party, whose pro-fetus, anti-tax sentiments are stoked and inflamed by the other face of the party; the corporate side that's in the pocket of Wall Street and beholden to their campaign financiers. Their marching orders include strip-mining a century's worth of progress in labor relations earned by the bloodshed and struggle of working people. And if you think that the freshman GOP governors are only concerned with public unions, think again. This new breed of radical, right-wing corporatists believe they've been given a mandate to repeal the New Deal.

Scott Walker exposed the whole scheme to a prank phone-caller identifying himself as oil billionaire and Republican donor David Koch. Walker blathered on for twenty minutes about his union-busting plans, hatched in closed-door secrecy with a loose cabal of freshly sworn GOP governors, including those in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Florida, and New Jersey, who were prepared to follow Wisconsin's lead in stripping worker's rights under the guise of financial necessity. They used a budget crises to attack the unions just like George Bush used 9/11 to attack Iraq. The Democratic minority fled Madison for Chicago to deprive the union-busters of the quorum needed to ram their "budget repair bill" through the legislature. Soon they were joined by fugitive Democratic legislators from Indiana for exactly the same reason, causing Illinois to resemble Canada during the sixties as a refuge for conscientious objectors. Walker and the Wisconsin senate removed the pesky "budget" references from the bill and voted with one-party rule to strip public unions of the right to collectively bargain. The result? Four straight weeks of public protests, 100,000 people in the streets, and an active effort, already underway, to recall the perpetrators like rancid peanut butter. 
The stealth campaign against unions, disregarding decades of progress, was done with such a cavalier attitude, it caused me to question the scholarship of Governor Scott Walker. He is a preacher's son, who attended Marquette University where he ran for Student Government president, but lost to a write-in candidate after being cited for violations of campaign rules. Walker attended college for four years, but dropped-out without earning a degree. His Milwaukee mentor, however, was Reince Priebus, current chairman of the Republican National Committee and the man credited with laying the groundwork for Walker's election. Priebus was the seed from which the anti-union crusade germinated and he promised Walker the complete support of the national organization. I realize making sport of someones name, like Hussein, is the cheapest of shots, but Preibus' parents set him up for this. He's like Johnny Cash's "Boy Named Sue," whose rogue father gave him the name to toughen him up. Reince Priebus sounds like a bulletin placed by management on the wall of a restaurant bathroom reminding employees what is required of them before returning to work. Since Priebus' elevation from Wisconsin Republican Chairman to national director, his old Milwaukee crony, Walker, is simply doing the bidding of the RNC.

When the Republicans came into power in the midterm elections, they promised their focus would be entirely on job creation and budget cuts. So, what has been on the agenda? In the House of Representatives, bills have been introduced to restrict abortion, curtail same-sex marriage, expand gun carry rights, including a proposal to allow firearms on the floor of Congress, reducing the corporate tax rate, and amending the National Labor Reform Act to get rid of the secret ballot. The focused attack on the Teacher's Union is meant to weaken a traditional Democratic voting bloc. By claiming that teachers' contracts are too generous, even after Wisconsin educators agreed to negotiate, Republicans have declared open warfare on funding the public school system. I used to believe these ideological slaves wanted to go back to the 1950s, but I was wrong. They want to return to the Nineteenth Century, when the gentry could afford to educate their children and the poor worked at manual labor for generation after generation, until unions insisted on child labor laws. Any job creation in there?

The Wisconsin union-busting bill will surely be overturned as a violation of open meeting statutes, as will the bill just passed in Michigan, giving their governor the right to declare martial law in a fiscal emergency, and the power to dismiss a town's democratically elected officials and appoint a "special manager" to right the municipality's imagined economic wrongs. Several Michigan cities were known as "company towns" before, but the corporations didn't get to own them outright. The fictional David Koch's easy access to Scott Walker proved the complicity between corporate America and the Republican governors. Only, it sounded more like Pinocchio reporting back to his puppet masters. While working-class, Republican foot-soldiers rail about taxes and immigration, men like the Kochs, Karl Rove, and Dick Armey move them around like rooks on a chess board, using and discarding them when necessary. This battle over public unions should have particular poignance for Memphians. It was 1968, when then Mayor Henry Loeb refused to negotiate with a public union he considered to be illegal, forcing a strike by the city's sanitation workers. I wonder if the GOP governors even realize that the right for public employees to unionize was the fight for which Dr. Martin Luther King gave his life.


Anonymous said...

Sputnik, this is your best on-target, and concise picture yet of the UGLIGNESS which the wealthy, and religious bigots have STARTED to perpatrate on the middle class of America. I bet most people don't know what the "poor working slobs" in those unions make each year. Wanna guess what teachers (another political voting blcok under attack) make here in Memphis? How about in the mid $40K range after 5 years. Yeah, they're really ripping off the public till. It's GD disgusting. We need to get up there to Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and stand up. People of this country need to be informed as to what is really at stake here. It's not about budgets, or immigration, etc, etc. It's about CLASS WARFARE, and the sooner we wake up to this, and say "Oh my God, I can't believe it", the sooner we'll REALLY take our country back! Sick em boys!


Alan said...

Private Unions help workers even the playing field against the evil corporations. Then it must be that Public Unions even the playing field against the evil taxpayers.

TigerFan said...

Wonderful column on the events in Wisconsin that explain the threat to all working people, union or no union. What has escaped the attention in Memphis is how the Commercial Appeal has destroyed the newspaper union. After seven years of bargaining in bad faith, keeping their employees from any raises, they then laid off many experienced reporters. They then forced the union to accept their terms, and now they are replacing all those they laid off with younger, lower wage earning reporters. They too did this under the pretense of 'budget constraints' like Walker and others, while beginning a new rehiring program. As Memphis citizens mobilize to protect collective bargaining elsewhere, they remain completely ignorant of what has happened right under their nose. Where is the outrage? Not even a wimper from this community. I guess Wisconsin workers have a higher value that those in this city.

Alan said...

Police & Firefighters were exempt from the new rules. The Governor's proposal that was rejected would have left wage and most benefits for collective bargaining. Sick leave and tenure were the main objects of the bill. The other sticking point was that the unions would have to collect their own dues instead of the Government taking them and passing on to the unions. The reasons to discuss tenure is to have control over under achieving Teachers and State Workers. Under the previous agreement it is almost impossible for teachers and public workers to be fired.

Father Farken said...

As a former Pastor of a Downtown Church in Newark, NJ for 18 years, I was able to see the importance of uniting first hand ...from observing the Church Mice! The mice were being oppressed by the Fat Cats that seemed to run the animal kingdom of the inner city that kept them from a prosperous life. These mice were dreamers ...always longing for a better life but it wasn't till they united & came up with a plan that they were able to turn their dreams into a goal. Through their union they were able rise above the life denying fat cats to enter into their Pantry of Plenty for which they are forever grateful...for together they had truely found CHEEEEEESES!!!! The Peace of the Lord! Happy St Paddy's Day! Father Farken

Gimme a break said...

I couldn't even finish your lopsided bullshit rantings.
You are hopeless.
Can't see the forest for the trees.
You are part of the reason the USA is going under.

performs said...

Gimme a break said....NOTHING.
At least “lopsided bullshit” is something. One could fertilize some lopsided crops with it. But the fumes you offer are simply offensive. They indicate the presence of a turd but do not deliver even one of any weight.
Tell readers what forest Randy cannot see. Explain, even briefly, what part he plays in causing the USA to go under. Some description would indicate what your thinking actually is. Instead one imagines that you simply do not grasp what he writes about because it is in utter conflict with your strict and limited philosophy.
Maybe Randy or another reader could explain how and why the “Republican” agenda is out to privatize every function of society, and how marvelous it is that citizens are standing up to them. Would it not be interesting to consider why the kleptocrats and oligarchs shudder at the notion that there may be someone, somewhere cooperating and sharing with others without the presence of a profit motive?

Pete Seeger said...

If you want higher wages let me tell you what to do.
You've go to talk to the workers in the shop with you.
You've got to build a union and make it strong
But if you all stick together boys it won't be long...

You'll get shorter hours...
Better working conditions...
Vacations with pay...
Take your kids to the sea shore

Now it ain't quite that simple so I'd better explain
Just why you gotts ride on the union train.
For if you wait for the boss to raise your pay
You'll all be waiting till judgement day...

We'll all be buried
Gone to heaven...
St Peter'll be the straw boss then, boys.

Now you know you're underpaid but the boss says you ain't,
Hw speeds up the work 'til you're about to faint.
You may be down and out but you ain't beaten,
You can pass out a leaflet, call a meeting.

Talk it over...
Speak your mind...
Decide to do something about it.

'Course the boss may persuade some poor damn fool
To go to your meeting and act like a stool,
But you can always tell a stool, though that's a fact,
He's got a yellow streak running down his back.

He doesn't have to stool, you know...
He can always make a good living...
On what he takes out of blind men's cups.

You've got a union now and you're sitting pretty;
Put some of the boys on the steering committee.
The boss won't listen if one guy squawks,
But he's got to listen if the union talks.

He'd better...
He be mighty lonely one day...
If everybody decided to walk out on him.

Suppose they're working you so hard it's just outrageous
Paying you all starvation wages.
You go to the boss and the boss will yell:
"Before I raise your pay, I'd see you all in hell!"
Puffing a big cigar feeling mightly slick,
Cos he thinks he's got your union licked.
He looks out of the window and what does he see
But a thousand pickets and they all agree...

He's a bastard!
Slave driver!
Bet he beats his own wife!

Now boys you've come to the hardest time,
The boss'll try to break up your picket line.
He'll call out the police and the national guard,
They'll tell you it's a crime to have a union card.
They'll raid your meetings, they'll hit you on the head,
Call everyone of you a goldarn red -

Soviet spies...
Bomb throwers...
Even the kids.

But out at Ford here's what they found,
And out at Vultee here's what they found,
And out at Allis-Chalmers here's what the found,
And down at Bethlehem here's what they found:
That if you don't let red baiting break you up,
And if you don't let stool pigeons break you up,
And if you don't let vigilantes break you up,
And if you don't let race hatred break you up -

You'll win...
What I mean...
Take it easy, but take it!

Anonymous said...

"They want to return to the Nineteenth Century, when the gentry could afford to educate their children and the poor worked at manual labor for generation after generation, until unions insisted on child labor laws." What an absurd comment. Sputnik you are hopeless.